High demand for mental healthcare beds sees new psychiatric ward at Soweto hospital

Patients at Bheki Mlangeni Hospital in Jabulani, Soweto, were transported to surrounding hospitals after a fire broke out on Monday.
Patients at Bheki Mlangeni Hospital in Jabulani, Soweto, were transported to surrounding hospitals after a fire broke out on Monday.
Image: Thulani Mbele

The Gauteng department of health is converting a section of the Bheki Mlangeni District Hospital, in Soweto, into a dedicated 14-bed psychiatric ward in a bid to address the high demand for mental healthcare services.

Kwara Kekana, Gauteng health spokesperson, said the hospital admitted 2,319 mental healthcare patients between January 2020 and August 2021.

While the number of patients admitted for mental care varies from month to month, Kekana said in October last year the hospital saw the highest number of patients admitted in a month, with 205 people presenting with mental care conditions.

“For 2021 the highest number of mental health patients presenting in a single month was in January, with 224 mental healthcare users,” she said.

“The accident and emergency unit is always overflowing with patients due to unavailability of beds due to high demand for mental healthcare.”

The Bheki Mlangeni District Hospital did not have a dedicated psychiatric ward due to its classification as a level one facility.

“The current hospital district mental healthcare services package allows for 72-hour observation, [after] which, depending on the level of care needed, patients are referred to either regional or tertiary hospitals.

“From the regional or tertiary hospital, patients are referred to specialised psychiatric hospitals, namely Sterkfontein, Weskoppies and Tara,” Kekana said.

Kekana said the hospital now has space for 26 mental health patients, which caters for 14 male and 12 female patients.

“We wish to emphasise that mental health patients are only placed in other wards when they need treatment for another condition, in addition to mental healthcare. Owing to their condition, some mental care patients tend to display aggressive behaviour towards staff and other patients,” she said.

Kekana said between January 2020 and August 2021, 30 mental health patients and nine staff members were attacked by mental healthcare patients.

“Security is always placed in sections with mental healthcare patients. The department is confident that in addition to security measures in place, this intervention [the new 14-bed ward] will help relieve pressure in other wards,” she said.

TimesLIVE

Would you like to comment on this article or view other readers' comments? Register (it’s quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.